Microsoft has snuck out a few details regarding Windows Blue, its next-generation operating system that will eventually replace the recently-launched Windows 8 and its divisive tile-based user interface - but if you were hoping for a return to a classic UI with Start Menu, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
Officially, Windows Blue doesn't exist; cognisant of the Osborne Effect - an industry term referring to the sad fate of the Osborne Executive, a next-generation microcomputer so hyped by its creator Adam Osborne that sales of the existing Osborne 1 model tanked and the company folded before the product could be released - Microsoft is sensibly keeping away from any talk of next-generation operating systems so close to the release of its current-generation Windows 8 product.
That the company is working on a replacement for Windows 8, of course, is no secret: Microsoft relies on a regular update cycle for its products to keep the cash rolling in, while critical reception of Windows 8 and its touch-centric UI is thought to be largely to blame for the departure of Windows chief Steven Sinofsky
from the company back in November. Windows Blue, it is claimed, is the name under which the development effort is being run.
The first official details of Windows Blue's development direction come courtesy of a job posting, upped by an incautious Microsoft staffer on the 15th of February and rapidly removed from sight - but not before ZDNet
grabbed a copy of the text. In the advert, Microsoft specifically mentions the work-in-progress codename: 'We’re looking for an excellent, experienced SDET [Software Development Engineer in Test] to join the Core Experience team in Windows Sustained Engineering (WinSE). The Core Experience features are the centrepiece of the new Windows UI, representing most of what customers touch and see in the OS, including: the start screen; application lifecycle; windowing; and personalisation. Windows Blue promises to build and improve upon these aspects of the OS, enhancing ease of use and the overall user experience on devices and PCs worldwide.
While merely a brief hint of a mention, one thing is clear from the job posting: while Windows Blue will represent an evolution of the current user interface, based on what was previously known as Metro UI and originally developed for the Windows Phone platform, it will not represent a scrapping of it and a return to the traditional way of doing things. Given Microsoft's clear focus on touch-enabled devices - to the point where the company is directly competing with its own customers through the Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet families - this is, perhaps, unsurprising, but is still likely to disappoint those who had believed that Sinofsky's departure may bring the company to its senses.